Phylogenetic relationships of the mockingbirds and thrashers (Aves: Mimidae)

Irby J. Lovette, Brian S. Arbogast, Robert L. Curry, Robert M. Zink, Carlos A. Botero, John P. Sullivan, Amanda L. Talaba, Rebecca B. Harris, Dustin R. Rubenstein, Robert E. Ricklefs, Eldredge Bermingham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


The mockingbirds, thrashers and allied birds in the family Mimidae are broadly distributed across the Americas. Many aspects of their phylogenetic history are well established, but there has been no previous phylogenetic study that included all species in this radiation. Our reconstructions based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence markers show that an early bifurcation separated the Mimidae into two clades, the first of which includes North and Middle American taxa (Melanotis, Melanoptila, Dumetella) plus a small radiation that likely occurred largely within the West Indies (Ramphocinclus, Allenia, Margarops, Cinclocerthia). The second and larger radiation includes the Toxostoma thrasher clade, along with the monotypic Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes) and the phenotypically diverse and broadly distributed Mimus mockingbirds. This mockingbird group is biogeographically notable for including several lineages that colonized and diverged on isolated islands, including the Socorro Mockingbird (Mimus graysoni, formerly Mimodes) and the diverse and historically important Galapagos mockingbirds (formerly Nesomimus). Our reconstructions support a sister relationship between the Galapagos mockingbird lineage and the Bahama Mockingbird (M. gundlachi) of the West Indies, rather than the Long-tailed Mockingbird (M. longicaudatus) or other species presently found on the South American mainland. Relationships within the genus Toxostoma conflict with traditional arrangements but support a tree based on a preivous mtDNA study. For instance, the southern Mexican endemic Ocellated Thrasher (T. ocellatum) is not an isolated sister species of the Curve-billed thrasher (T. curvirostre).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-229
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2012


  • Classification
  • Galapagos
  • Mimidae
  • Mockingbird
  • Phylogeny
  • Thrasher

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    Lovette, I. J., Arbogast, B. S., Curry, R. L., Zink, R. M., Botero, C. A., Sullivan, J. P., Talaba, A. L., Harris, R. B., Rubenstein, D. R., Ricklefs, R. E., & Bermingham, E. (2012). Phylogenetic relationships of the mockingbirds and thrashers (Aves: Mimidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 63(2), 219-229.